Challenging behaviour for health professionals

What is challenging behaviour?

Challenging behaviour is any behaviour with the potential to physically or psychologically harm another person, self or property. It can be deliberate or unintentional and ranges from verbal abuse through to threats or acts of physical violence. Challenging behaviour or actions result in people feeling unsafe or threatened, or feeling that intervention or withdrawal is warranted to avoid harm to someone.

Ultimately, regardless of its extremity, challenging behaviour is a barrier to the delivery of care in a way that is safe for the patient and health staff.

SA Health resources

SA Health has developed a series of fact sheets explaining challenging behaviour, its impact on health services and how to deal with it.

Fact sheets:

There is also a comprehensive policy framework that includes a policy directive, policy guideline (PDF 545KB) and toolkit which will support health services to focus action on prevention and response to challenging behaviour in a systematic way. See also the guide to using the challenging behaviour policy directive, guideline and toolkit (PDF 92KB).


National Safety and Quality Service Standard (NSQHS) 5: Comprehensive Care

The NSQHS Standard 5: Comprehensive Care describes actions that need to be met for accreditation:

5.33 The health service organisation has processes to identify and mitigate situations that may precipitate aggression

5.34 The health service organisation has processes to support collaboration with patients, carers and families to:

  • identify patients at risk of becoming aggressive or violent
  • implement de-escalation strategies
  • safely manage aggression, and minimise harm to patients, carers, families and the workforce

The SA Health Accreditation Resource Standard 5: Comprehensive Care identifies the resources that are available to support each action.

Education and training

SA Health Introduction to preventing and responding to Challenging Behaviour (eLearning – access through the Safety and Quality intranet)

This eLearning course is intended as an introduction to all staff on what is challenging behaviour and the type of strategies that can be put into place to prevent, and when necessary respond to these incidents. See the eLearning guide (PDF 582KB) for a list of core elements and sample pages. The course will take approximately one hour to complete.

Community awareness campaigns

Waiting is not an emergency
Keep your hands off our Ambos!


Safety and Quality
(08) 8226 6422